1856 in the United States
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|1856 in the United States|
31 stars (1851–58)
|Timeline of United States history|
|History of the United States (1849–65)|
- President: Franklin Pierce (D-New Hampshire)
- Vice President: vacant
- Chief Justice: Roger B. Taney (Maryland)
- Speaker of the House of Representatives: Nathaniel P. Banks (American-Massachusetts)
- Congress: 34th
- January 24 – U.S. President Franklin Pierce declares the new Free-State Topeka government in Bleeding Kansas to be in rebellion.
- January 26 – Puget Sound War/Yakima War – Battle of Seattle: Marines from the USS Decatur drive off American Indian attackers after an all day battle with settlers.
- February – The Tintic War breaks out in Utah.
- February 1 – Auburn University is first chartered as the East Alabama Male College.
- February 2 – Dallas, Texas is incorporated as a city.
- February 18 – The American Party (Know-Nothings) convene in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to nominate their first Presidential candidate, former President Millard Fillmore.
- March 6 – Maryland Agricultural College (present-day University of Maryland, College Park) is chartered.
- March 9 – National Fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon is founded at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
- April 10 – The Theta Chi Fraternity is founded at Norwich University.
- May 16 – The Vigilance Committee is founded in San Francisco, California. It lynches two gangsters, arrests most Democratic Party officials and disbands itself on August 18.
- May 21 – Bleeding Kansas: Lawrence, Kansas is captured and burned by pro-slavery forces (the "Sacking of Lawrence").
- May 22 – Congressman Preston Brooks of South Carolina beats Senator Charles Sumner with a cane in the hall of the United States Senate, for a speech Sumner had made attacking Southerners who sympathized with the pro-slavery violence in Kansas ("Bleeding Kansas"). Sumner is unable to return to duty for 3 years while he recovered; Brooks becomes a hero across the South.
- May 24 – Pottawatomie Massacre: A group of followers of radical abolitionist John Brown kill 5 homesteaders in Franklin County, Kansas.
- June 2 – Bleeding Kansas – Battle of Black Jack: Anti-slavery forces, led by John Brown, defeat pro-slavery forces.
- June 6 – At the Democratic National Convention, President Franklin Pierce is denied re-nomination for the November presidential election.
- June 9 – 500 Mormons leave Iowa City, Iowa and head west for Salt Lake City, Utah, carrying all their possessions in two-wheeled handcarts.
- July 17 – The Great Train Wreck of 1856: Two trains collide near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania killing at least 59 and injuring at least 100.
- August 10 – 1856 Last Island hurricane: A hurricane destroys Last Island, Louisiana, leaving at least 200 dead. The whole island is broken up into smaller islands by the storm.
- August 23 – Kate Warne, the first female private detective, begins to work for the Pinkerton Detective Agency.
- August 30 – Bleeding Kansas – Battle of Osawatomie: Pro-slavery forces defeat anti-slavery forces.
- September 1 – Seton Hall University is founded by Archdiocese of Newark Bishop James Roosevelt Bayley, a cousin of U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt and nephew of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton.
- November 4 – U.S. presidential election, 1856: Democrat James Buchanan defeats former President Millard Fillmore, representing a coalition of "Know-Nothings" and Whigs, and John C. Frémont of the fledgling Republican Party, to become the 15th President of the United States.
- November 17 – American Old West: On the Sonoita River in present-day southern Arizona, the United States Army establishes Fort Buchanan in order to help control new land acquired in the Gadsden Purchase.
- November 21 – Niagara University is founded in Niagara Falls, New York.
- January 7 – Charles Harold Davis, landscape painter (died 1933)
- January 8 – Elizabeth Taylor, painter and traveler (died 1932)
- January 9 – Lizette Woodworth Reese, poet (died 1935)
- January 12 – John Singer Sargent, painter (born in Tuscany; died 1925 in the United Kingdom)
- February 2 – Frederick William Vanderbilt, railway magnate (died 1938)
- March 20 – Frederick Winslow Taylor, inventor and efficiency expert (died 1915)
- April 5 – Booker T. Washington, educator (died 1915)
- April 23 – Granville T. Woods, African American inventor (died 1910)
- March 8 – Colin Campbell Cooper, impressionist painter (died 1937)
- May 6 – Robert Peary, Arctic explorer (died 1920)
- May 15 – L. Frank Baum, children's writer (The Wizard of Oz) (died 1919)
- May 26 – George Templeton Strong, composer (died 1948 in Switzerland)
- July 11 – Georgiana Drew, stage actress (died 1893)
- July 24 – Franklin Ware Mann, inventor (died 1916)
- July 25 – Charles Major, novelist and lawyer (died 1913)
- August 15 – Charles E. Townsend, U.S. Senator from Michigan from 1911 to 1923 (died 1924)
- September 3 –Louis Sullivan, architect, "father of skyscrapers" (died 1924)
- September 5
- September 9 – Richard R. Kenney, U.S. Senator from Delaware from 1897 to 1901 (died 1931)
- October 28 – Anna Elizabeth Klumpke, portrait and genre painter (died 1942)
- October 30 – Charles Leroux, balloonist and parachutist (died 1889)
- November 6 – Jefferson David Chalfant, trompe-l'œil painter (died 1931)
- November 13 – Louis Brandeis, U.S. Supreme Court Justice (died 1941)
- November 14 – Madeleine Lemoyne Ellicott, suffragette (died 1945)
- November 16 – Carrie Babcock Sherman, wife of James S. Sherman, Second Lady of the United States (died 1931)
- November 17 – Thomas Taggart, U.S. Senator from Indiana in 1916 (died 1929)
- November 21 – William Emerson Ritter, biologist (died 1944)
- November 22 – Heber J. Grant, seventh president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (died 1945)
- December 22 – Frank B. Kellogg, U.S. Senator from Minnesota from 1917 to 1923 (died 1937)
- December 28 – Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the United States from 1913 to 1921 (died 1924)
- Sarah Platt-Decker, née Chase, suffragist (died 1912)
- January 1 – John M. Berrien, United States Senator from Georgia from 1841 till 1852. (born 1781)
- April 26 – George Troup, United States Senator from Georgia from 1816 till 1818 and from 1829 till 1833. (born 1780)
- May 5 – William Crosby Dawson, United States Senator from Georgia from 1849 till 1855. (born 1798)
- May 31 – John Milton Niles, United States Senator from Connecticut from 1835 till 1839 and from 1843 till 1849. (born 1787)
- July 9
- September 7 – Almon W. Babbitt, Mormon pioneer and first secretary/treasurer of Utah Territory (born 1812)
- November 9 – John M. Clayton, United States Senator from Delaware from 1829 till 1836, from 1845 till 1849 and from 1853 till 1856. (born 1796)
- Media related to 1856 in the United States at Wikimedia Commons